Yes, eating the right foods can help protect your brain as well as your heart!
As you’ve already been reading on this site and hearing on Maria Shriver’s social media pages, groundbreaking studies are proving that nutrition, exercise, and certain other brain-healthy lifestyles can actually slow cognitive decline and slow the build-up of the proteins in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Like Maria, our introduction to this field was when a family member was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In 1980, Nancy became part of a team that created the national Alzheimer’s Association. Her mother was impacted in 1965 when she was just over 50 years of age, and there were no resources to help patients and families. CC is currently part of her father’s current care team and experiencing the challenges of caregiving.
We combine our different backgrounds in science and education to help people maintain their brainpower and reduce brain disease through presentations and hands on coaching. At the Brain Health and Wellness Center (BHWC), we work with a team of specialized dietitians and nutritionists to explain how the choices we make about diet, exercise, and how to de-stress, for example, impact our brain health.
Our focus is the Memory Preservation Nutrition® program (MPN™), which was developed in 2005 by a team of medical doctors and scientists from the Boston University School of Medicine and Tufts School of Medicine (led by Nancy).
Adopting MPN as early as possible is important as research shows that Alzheimer’s disease begins decades before symptoms appear. Although this concept is scary, it actually means that we have more control over how we age. MPN can help protect brain health no matter your age — even in those already experiencing cognitive problems.
What is MPN?
MPN™ merges nutritional neuroscience research with practical advice about delicious foods that can be found in the “market around the corner.” It is a brain-healthy evidenced-based nutrition program. The goal is to change eating habits and food services to reduce Alzheimer’s disease, delay the onset symptoms in those with presymptomatic AD, and slow the progression in those already diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.
We know, there are so many diets and plans out there. It becomes confusing to know which ones to follow. Over 750 research studies are reflected in the MPN. It is continually updated as new brain-relevant research becomes available.
MPN encompasses foods and combinations of food known to support brain health, to counteract diseases that that put our brains at risk, such as heart disease and diabetes, sugar and fat imbalances, and to combat destructive processes such as inflammation and oxidative stress. By design, MPN promotes overall health, particularly in the areas identified as closely related to brain health: sugar metabolism, insulin function, and cardiovascular function.
MPN has “ready to use” recipes, menus, pantry and shopping lists, cooking guides, assessment tools, as well as lists of brain foods, foods to avoid, and hundreds of delicious recipes to help families and food service directors build a brain healthy pantry and menus, and guides to adapting favorite recipes. MPN is a whole foods nutrition program that encourages you to discern what you eat. Cooking yourself, or being particular about ingredient sources and how they are prepared, is an easy way to do this. MPN is also cost effective because many prepared/packaged, highly processed foods are expensive. Sugary drinks and foods (not recommended) also add to the food budget.
The 6 MPN Strategies to target foods and nutrients that are good for our brains and identify foods that put our brains at risk:
- Increase intake and Variety of Antioxidants
- Increase Omega-3s
- Reduce Inflammation
- Reduce Insulin Resistance and Promote Healthy Blood Sugar
- Reduce intake of unhealthy fats, avoid transfats, and reduce one’s LDL cholesterol by eating less sugar and refined carbs, and more brain foods
- Assure Adequate B, C, D, & E Vitamins
3 Principles that are key to eating brain healthy:
- Eat more plant foods and fewer animal foods
- Eat probiotics and prebiotics
- Minimize prepared and processed foods especially those loaded with unhealthy ingredients such as HFCS, sugars and transfats, and many additives.
Specific brain foods to include in your diet:
- Spices such as cinnamon, ginger and turmeric – daily
- Herbs such as rosemary, oregano, sage, melissa, basil, parsley, and others,-daily
- Leafy Greens (fresh or cooked, 1-2 servings/day)
- Other Vegetables (3-5 servings/day)
- Fish and Seafood (3+ servings/week)
- Beans and Lentils (3-7+/week)
- Nuts and Seeds (1+ oz 5-7/week)
- Fruits, especially berries (3-5 servings/day)
- Vegan Entrees (2+/week)
- Healthy Fats, e.g. olive oil, flax seed oil, coconut oil, good quality palm oil, avocadoes, nuts & seeds, fish and fish oil
- Whole Grains (4-7/week); at least 70% of grains consumed should be whole grains
- Probiotics, e.g. plain yogurt, pickled vegetables, 3+/week
- Prebiotics e.g. beans/lentils, onions, garlic, or greens, daily
- Eggs (3-7/week; pasture raised or Omega-3 preferred)
Foods to Limit
- Reduce Sugar, refined carbs and animal foods; choose animal foods that are hormone and antibiotic free, free range.
- Limit added Sugars to 7 tsp/day for women and 9 for men. All fruit juices should be 100% juice.
- Limit total red meat, including beef, pork and lamb, to twice or less per month
- Limit Poultry to 2-4 times each week
- Limit Dairy to 3-5 servings per week
Check back here next week for a Labor Day Brain Healthy Menu contrasted with a typical BBQ to point out how changing certain ingredients is the way to go!
More information can be found on brainwellness.com.